Treating Psychological Trauma with Effective Counseling
You can’t watch a movie or television show without some mention of PTSD in first responders or military members in combat. However, it’s not just something we see in the media. Did you know that around 3.5% of the US population is affected by some form of PTSD? There are many reasons someone can suffer from this, and it’s not an exclusive problem for people in the military or law enforcement agencies.
In all honesty, I don’t like the words Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It makes it seem like PTSD is something that can’t be cured; a disorder that you’re doomed to live with for the rest of your life. Instead, my preference is Post Traumatic Stress Injury. Why the distinction? Well, an injury can be healed.
By definition, PTSD is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event – either experiencing it or witnessing it. Often, this definition limits it to events where there is death or potential loss of life or some type of sexual abuse. These extreme events are at the top of the trauma period as they are considered the worst things someone can experience in their life.
However, there’s a growing awareness of PTSD today, meaning we must expand it to include the routine trauma plaguing millions of people. I have worked with people who are held back by the effects of events that are deeply hurtful but don’t technically fall under the category of PTSD. Yet, when you look at the events, though they might not seem as severe as nearly losing your life or witnessing someone die, the psychological effect they have on someone is just as serious. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of people go untreated as they don’t feel like they have post traumatic stress disorder because what they experienced doesn’t technically fall under its definition.
Trauma Counseling For PTSD
The good news is that a range of treatments are available to help people experiencing the effects of a traumatic moment in their lives. I had a female client who once was pushed out of a moving car going over 40 miles per hour. This was her presenting trauma problem when we began our session. It’s a highly traumatic event with a near-death experience, and we used a combination of therapy techniques to treat this.
Firstly, we used EMDR to resolve the problem of her pushing out of a moving car. This is eye movement desensitization reprocessing, and we also used one eye integration – a more precise and gentle way of doing EMDR. Effectively, this is a psychotherapy that helps people heal from the symptoms and emotional distress resulting from challenging life experiences. By stimulation eye movements while talking through a trauma memory, it’s shown to help people process the traumatic events and work through them successfully. In this particular case, EMDR sessions helped my female client get over the near-death experience and deal with the symptoms she was facing.
However, we also spent a lot of time talking as part of the trauma counseling process. By doing this, I learned her true core problem and the source of a lot of traumatic stress. When she was 15 years old, she was in a coed gym class and accidentally urinated on herself. The male gym teacher pointed this out to the whole class. While not a life-threatening humiliation, it was a social death penalty for a girl in high school. It took us three times more time to resolve this humiliation than the car incident, despite the car incident being more life-threatening.
It just goes to show how we can hold onto trauma for many years, and that, seemingly insignificant, events can in fact be very mentally damaging.
The bad news is that traumatic events can follow us through our lives. Unresolved childhood traumas can bring pain to adult relationships. As we are talking with a spouse, child, friend, or employer, some of the unresolved anger or frustration that was carried over from a previous unresolved trauma can splash emotional gasoline on a current conversation. This emotional carryover unnecessarily ignites passions that ruin the present moment.
How do you know if you have unresolved trauma? Some of the symptoms I’ve noticed include things like developing an addiction, experiencing regular nightmares, having an urge to rescue others, struggling to maintain relationships, suffering from eating disorders, or having a victim mentality.
The good news is that there are ways to decompress this past stored trauma and make it go away. This is where my EMDR treatments and trauma counseling techniques are extremely effective. I am so confident in my ability to heal clients that if you’re not satisfied after the first session, the time is free. If you’d like to learn more, please contact me today. We offer in-person counseling services in Bellingham, WA area, and soon in Langley area – but really, we have given online therapy sessions to clients from as far away as Florida, so we’re here to help with any mental health issues wherever you are.
Contact our PTSD therapist in Bellingham today.